JAKARTA (Reuters) – An Indonesian soldier was shot dead and two separatist rebels killed in clashes with security forces near the giant Grasberg copper mine in Papua operated by Freeport McMoRan Inc, an Indonesian military spokesman said on Tuesday.
A separatist group, however, said that only one of its members had died and that dozens of Indonesian troops were killed in clashes that began on Sunday.
Papua has suffered a simmering separatist conflict since it was incorporated into Indonesia after a widely criticized U.N.-backed referendum in 1969 and foreign media access to parts of the province is often difficult or, at times, restricted.
Papua Military spokesman Muhammad Aidi said the soldier was killed during a joint military and police operation to “reclaim villages controlled by armed criminal separatists”.
“It appears (the separatists) were ready for the security forces and so there was a gun fight with the military,” Aidi said in a statement.
Six villages were still occupied by separatists and indigenous Papuans after more than 1,000 residents were evacuated in November following a string of shootings, he said.
Drone footage showed two separatists were killed and dozens wounded in the clash, he said. No civilians were hurt, but separatists torched a house, a school and a hospital, said Aidi.
According to the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), a separatist group, one of its members was shot dead in a clash with Indonesian special forces near Banti…